Sunday, March 13, 2011

Christmas Snacks 2010

Ah, Mid-March, what better time to review some of last year's Christmas-themed snack foods. (Festering in a reduced to clear bin near you now!). Just like Halloween, I'm rating everything on the internationally-recognised, five-point Screaming Torres scale. Let's begin!

Believe it or not, this amazing Photoshop took only minutes to complete.

Pringles Pigs in Blankets

A peppery, bacon-flavoured crisp, with a hint of sausage buried pretty deep down - not terribly well balanced, but tasty nonetheless. I'll give these a festive, four out of five.


Pringles Roast Turkey

These taste far more like chicken than turkey to me, with dash of herbs and a hint of garlic. Not bad, not great either, I'll give these a three out of five.


A Snow Bite, plus full and dissected Mistletoe Kisses

Cadbury Snow Bites

Round balls of chocolate surrounded by a crisp shell and dusted with powdered sugar. I really like the look of these and I'll take Cadbury's chocolate over that of Smarties or M&M's any day, but the harder shell, and the larger size of these makes it harder to chomp through handfuls of them at once in the same satisfying manner as the aforementioned candies. I'll give these a three out of five.


Galaxy Mistletoe Kisses
A caramel/truffle combo covered in Galaxy chocolate. Rich, delicious and definitely the pick of the bunch here, I'm giving these a very merry five out of five.


Cadbury Wishes

A truffle-filled chocolate star. Good, but not terribly exciting, I'm giving this a three out of five.


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Backlog Assault: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers

In the last few years I've built up a pretty crazy gaming backlog. This year, I've decided it's high time I do something about it. Join me as I begin to regret more than ever all those impulse Steam buys and 99 cent PS2 bargains:

You can press 2 on the Wiimote to save a picture to your SD Card, so I did, a lot.

Title: Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: The Crystal Bearers
Platform: Wii

11 July 2010
Price: £19.49

25 February 2011
Final Game Time: 11:16
Price/Hour: £1.73

Backloggery Dump:
  • 21/02/11 - Started this tonight. Good God, the camera controls!
  • 25/02/11 - Well, that didn't take too long. A fun little game, if a bit lacking in substance gameplay-wise.

With the tiny amount of coverage this got at the time of it's release, part of the reason I picked this up was to figure out just what the hell it was for myself. Now that I've beaten it, I can state conclusively that this is an action-adventure game set in the Crystal Chronicles universe; Think Zelda with no dungeons, but lots of moogles.

It's true there isn't too much meat here in terms of gameplay. Most of the game consists of you traversing the overworld, talking to one person here, another person there - just moving along the story by triggering cut scenes. Accompanying that there are a few boss battles and a whole bunch of other "playable events" ranging from rail shooting to airship steering to ferret chasing to dancing. If you feel like supplementing that with some optional stuff, you can have a wander around the overworld, where you can find some pretty fun mini games to complete and groups of enemies to fight.

Combat takes place in real-time and makes use of your telekinetic powers to pick up enemies, throw them at each each other and clobber them with nearby objects. I found it mostly enjoyable, apart from the d-pad-controlled camera on occasion. With a more limited range of movement, the d-pad isn't a great substitute for analogue camera controls, especially with the fast pace of combat here. You run into an even bigger problem during the first boss encounter of the game, where you need to move the camera up and aim the pointer at the same time, using the same controller, before you miss a narrow opportunity to throw a sword at the boss. Think patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time.

The biggest problem of all with the combat though is that it's almost entirely optional and mostly pointless. One one hand, for taking on a group of enemies in the overworld and closing the portal they spawned from (for the first time in an area only), your health gets increased by one and you might get a few items you can combine into stat-boosting accessories. On the other, you can safely bypass almost every enemy in the game and the few bosses you encounter are never any real challenge. The benefits you gain from fighting aren't really useful when you almost never need to fight or beef yourself up for difficult bosses down the line.

Having said all that though, I still enjoyed the game for what it was. The playable events, mini games and the few battles I partook in were all quite fun; The story's interesting; The characters are likeable; The soundtrack's fantastic and the game world itself, with it's lush grasslands, dusty plains and sweeping blue skies is a joy to wander about in. Look, I brought some more holiday snaps (full album here):

Backlog Assault: Final Fantasy X

In the last few years I've built up a pretty crazy gaming backlog. This year, I've decided it's high time I do something about it. Join me as I begin to regret more than ever all those impulse Steam buys and 99 cent PS2 bargains:

Title: Final Fantasy X
Platform: PS2

06 August 2010
From: eBay
Price: €11.02

21 February 2011
Final Game Time: 61:47
Price/Hour: €0.18

Backloggery Dump:
  • 02/02/11 - I'm back in Luca after rescuing Yuna from the Al Bhed.
  • 03/02/11 - On my way to Djose Temple now.
  • 05/02/11 - I'm making my way through Macalania Woods, and getting lost at every turn thanks to the constant random battles. *grumble*
  • 07/02/11 - Welp, so much for Home... On to Bevelle!
  • 09/02/11 - I'm done with Bevelle. Looks like I'm going back into the damn woods now.
  • 10/02/11 - After a gruelling trek up, down and back up Mt. Gagazet, I'm finally on my way to Zanarkand.
  • 15/02/11 - Taking care of some sidequests before I head for Sin.
  • 17/02/11 - Looks like I'll be taking on some Dark Aeons to finish off two of the sidequests I'm doing. I foresee this going badly...
  • 18/02/11 - Holy shit, those dark Aeons don't fuck around! :D I've decided to go get my ass kicked in the Omega Ruins instead now.
  • 21/02/11 - Beat the final boss tonight, then went back to rip Omega Weapon a new one. Final time: 61:47

Nearly 62 of FFX hours in three weeks - I think it's fair to say I enjoyed my stay in Spira. :D The battle system's plays it pretty safe here, but it's a damn solid game, helped along by a reasonably engaging story, characters who're still likeable despite reams of dodgy dialogue (and terrible delivery in Yuna's case) and an interesting backdrop in Spira itself.

I guess the big innovation in the game is the Sphere Grid, a way of levelling up by traversing a board game-like grid, and activating attribute and skill nodes when you get close enough to them. It adds a interesting level of strategy to the levelling up process - Do you stick to the route that's been obviously laid out for a particular character, sensibly activating every node on the way or do veer way off the prescribed path, teaching your strongest attacker a bunch of healing spells or making a beeline for Ultima with one of your magic users? If you're willing to grind enough, you can customize your characters quite a bit, though you can definitely end up screwing yourself in the process if you're not careful.

After spending the last few months playing games on the 360, the graphics did take a bit of getting used to, but they do actually hold up pretty well, especially the facial detail on the characters and the cutscenes, which are still pretty damn spectacular.

If I were to nitpick, the temple puzzle-solving segments are a real drag, especially when combined with the slightly stiff movement of your character and the fixed camera angles, but overall, FFX was a thoroughly engrossing and entertaining experience. So much so, that even after nearly 62 hours, I'm still craving some more Final Fantasy. Hm, let me see what else I can dig out of the old backlog...